Adventure Lab: Testing "Prosthetic Advantage"

A couple of years ago, Wired magazine put out a forward-looking article addressing whether paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius's artificial legs (called Cheetahs) gave him an advantage over able-bodied sprinters. After all, at the time he was close to qualifying for the Olympics with prostheses.

No one expects able-bodied runners to compete head-to-head withwheelchair-bound marathoners. The wheels confer an obvious speedadvantage, and maybe Oscar Pistorius’ Cheetahs do, too. So the realquestion is this: Do able-bodied athletes need protection from him? (Wired, March 2007)

A team of scientists from MIT took on the challenge, testing whether new advances in prosthetic technology gave athletes with artificial legs an advantage. The team put six elite sprinters with prosthetic legs on a fancy treadmill. They measured the ground reaction force of the sprinters' legs and watched videos to examine leg swing times. The article was published this week in Biology Letters.

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